As you see, from the above communication, I have been rejected by Nike. I applied to be a shoe tester. I filled in a form. I answered the questions. I told the truth where I thought that would be an advantage, and told lies when I thought that would. But it has come to nothing. I have been weighed and found wanting. I shall have to continue to pay for my own shoes.
Why did I apply to become a shoe tester? Because I just finished reading a novel by Wilhlem Genazino titled The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt. It’s a good book in which our hero wanders the city having deep thoughts, many of them about women, and all the time wearing shoes that he’s testing for a company. Eventually he gets screwed over by the company: they offer less money and worse terms, and he’s reduced to selling the shoes he’s tested at a street market. In fact the lads currently in charge at Nike didn’t offer any payment whatsoever, and if I’d been accepted I’d have had to return the shoes once I’d tested them, at my own expense, so it wasn’t the very best deal in the world. I just wanted to be part of a literary tradition.
As you see above, the jacket design for The Shoe Tester of Frankfurt, incorporates images by Eadweard Muybridge, this one titled “Plate 49 – Clothed Male Walking, Turning Around Rapidly, Satchel in One Hand, Cane in Other.”
You might think that’s a rather unnecessarily full description and you might wonder why anybody would bother to specify that he was clothed. Well, the fact is Muybridge made a total of 781 plates – quite a few of animals of course including horses, and five just of hands – but most of them show people in motion, a few of them walking. This is plate one:
Now Muybridge obviously knew his market. However scientific and artistic his photographs, he realized that the human body is a lot more compelling when it’s naked than when it’s clothed. Out of that total of 781, 133 are of nude men, 62 of women “in transparent drapery and semi-nude,” 180 of women completely nude and, it being a different era, 15 plates of nude children. And the appeal of nudity certainly applies when it comes to descending a staircase.
It’s hard to imagine that Duchamp would have been quite as inspired by this image:
as he obviously was by this one:
In any case, a Muybridge image is a very fine thing to have on the jacket of your novel about walking.
Incidentally, Wilhlem Genazino is also the author of a novel titled Die Obdachlosigkeit der Fische, which (I believe) translates as The Homelessness of Fish, although as far as I can see there’s no edition in English. I can’t absolutely swear what it’s about, and Wikipedia with Microsoft translator is only a partial help: “The Osprey, the stability through phone book and the sheep are described in sometimes unexpected twists - of the sheep in the field of view are for example ‘appalling taste kotete buttocks.’”
Yes, that is Bettie Page on the front cover, and as discussed elsewhere in this blog Bettie was a woman who knew how to walk, especially in high heels. What she has to do with the homelessness of fish I don’t know. In any case, a Bettie Page image is a very fine thing to have on the jacket of your novel, although it might raise expectations the author couldn’t possibly fulfill.